BY ERIN GALLAGHER AND ALYSON DETCH | COMMUNITY NEWS SERVICE | SEPTEMBER 30, 2020
Students returned to Champlain Valley Union High School this week under a hybrid learning model where cohorts of students are in-person on alternating days — leaving plenty of time for cleaning.
The reopening plan consisted of two options: a remote model, and a hybrid model. 60 students are enrolled in the remote option, according to Superintendent Elaine Pinckney. These students are taking classes through the Vermont Learning Collaborative, and three CVU teachers are instructing for VLC.
The vast majority of students will be in school for two days of the week, either Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday, and remote the rest of the week, said CVU principal Adam Bunting. Wednesday is a cleaning day in which all students are remote.
Because of this system, class sizes are half of what they have been in previous years, making it easier to enforce physical distancing. Some classes are outside, under canopies. Additionally, masks are always required in the building.
CVU football coach and Learning Center director Rahn Fleming said that PPE for faculty and staff was “day one, item one.”
“I think every single adult in the building feels a sense of stewardship and kind of caring,” Fleming said.
This year, students will also take fewer classes at once. Instead of taking eight classes all year, students will now be enrolled in four classes for one semester, and four classes for the next semester.
The schedule change was a reaction to student feedback, because students felt like balancing eight classes remotely was too much, Bunting said.
“Our students were pretty clear with us that balancing eight courses remotely felt, everything kind of felt like a checkbox and they weren’t going to the depth that they really wanted,” Bunting said.
All of the decisions about reopening were made collaboratively, with attention to the effects choices would have on students who learn in different ways, said Superintendent Elaine Pinckney.
“What does that mean in terms of our students with special needs, our students who maybe can’t wear a mask, our students who maybe can not be in our school, our students who maybe need to be in school every day as remote learning did not work for them last spring?” Pickney recalled asking in re-opening meetings.
That decision-making team, which is made up of administrators and community members, continues to meet at least weekly in order to discuss new challenges as they arise, like transportation and some aspects of outdoor learning.
Faculty members have to keep tabs on students who may have trouble in these circumstances, Bunting said. “We’re really trying to make extra efforts to make sure they’re hearing and learning and they want to participate,” Bunting said.
Fleming stressed the importance, too, of checking in with all students on a human level.
“The first topic on the table every day is: how are you doing?” Fleming said. “It’s almost fruitless to try and do the rest of it if you haven’t addressed ‘how are you doing?’ First.”
After the first week of classes, administrators and faculty both report that the reopening, however strange, is going well so far.
“I have not had to talk to a student in the hallway about taking the mask off,” Bunting said.
The Community News Service is a collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program.